There are two reasons to check out People Places Things — but neither the lead actors nor the characters they play are among them.
Written and directed by Jim Strouse, the film follows the splintered lives of a straight couple who, though never married, have built a comfortable New York life for themselves and their adorable twin daughters. At least that’s what man-child comic artist/professor Will (Jemaine Clement), an immigrant from New Zealand, thinks until he walks in on girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allynne) cheating on him with a family friend.
The film then follows them as they try to move on, with Charlie given to spouting hack language about always caring for everyone else and no one caring for her, and Will stumbling and bumbling so badly and annoyingly that you wonder how he manages to breathe and walk at the same time. Only when Strouse cuts to Will’s comic panels does the character become semi-interesting.
Instead, People Places Things crackles to life whenever the camera turns to one of Will’s students, Kat (The Daily Show‘s Jessica Williams), and her professor mother, Diane (Regina Hall), the latter positioned as a rebound romance for Will.
Both actresses absolutely command the screen, and neither is onscreen as much as you’d like. Kat’s warm but no-bullshit demeanor and Diane’s crisp professionalism, marbled with quick wit and evidence of a rich interior life, push the film beyond its privileged-white-people-whining mode, and make you wish they were the center.
People Places Things
Written and directed by Jim Strouse
Now playing, IFC Center